Crown jewel of entertainment district under construction amid opposition
The city of Montreal's plan to develop a downtown theatre district is underway with Monday's announcement that the 2-22 -- a building that will serve as the crown jewel of the new entertainment hub -- is finally under construction.
The six-storey glass-sided structure on the southwest corner of St. Laurent Blvd. and Ste. Catherine St. is set to open next spring.
The building will house a radio station, restaurants and a box office where customers can buy tickets to all Quartier des Spectacles shows.
"This is going to be a part of the most magnificent part of Montreal… this is the Broadway of Montreal," said Finance Minister Raymond Bachand.
Whitewashing alternative arts?
Some business owners in the area are opposed to the reconstruction, saying it will ruin their livelihood, as well as that of their employees.
With an $875,000 deal to expropriate businesses in the area to make room for a Hydro Quebec building, the organizer of a popular fetish and burlesque festival said the construction is whitewashing culture the area.
"A Quarter des Spectacles without the artists of alternative culture is like a guitar missing one string. You can't call it a Quartier des Spectacles without including all of the artists, especially those who want to work there and want to be a part of it," said Eric Paradis, organizer of the Montreal Fetish Weekend.
Paradis said the expropriation will push 200 alternative performers out of the area.
The only hold-out business on the seedy downtown stretch is strip and burlesque club Café Cleopatra, and owner Johnny Zoumbalakis, said he's not going to close his business without a fight.
"They want my land. They want to clear the land off my feet, off the artists and employees, and they haven't offered us not even a parachute or an umbrella to land," he said.
Other artists, however, said they think the construction will create new possibilities for dancers.
Dominique Wang said she's opening a studio across the street from the 2-22 to capitalize on the changes.
"We really want to be part of this big transformation of art and culture and we really love the project. Every day we see the change and difference in the neighbourhood and it gets us very excited," said Wang.
Andre Menard, head of Montreal Jazz festival, said the construction will create jobs and opportunities.
"It really means that more people will be working in the district, more people will be creating in the district. So as far as I'm concerned, there are only plusses there," he said.